Brazil Boosts Security in “Pacified” District

July 22, 2014

Latin American Herald Tribune, 7/22/2014

Brazilian authorities on Monday strengthened security in a cluster of Rio de Janeiro shantytowns that were officially pacified four years ago after decades as a bastion of drug traffickers.

The additional police presence follows a violent weekend.

A police officer was wounded, two vehicles were burned and a police base was attacked on Sunday night by suspected drug dealers who evidently were acting in reprisal for the death of a young man during a gunfight and the jailing of one of their associates, Rio state police said.

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In Brazil, Pacification Paves Way For Baby Steps To Democracy

July 8, 2014

Catherine Osborn – NPR, 7/7/2014

As World Cup travelers in Brazil flock to Rio de Janeiro for the tournament’s final, many are staying in newly pacified favelas, or low-income neighborhoods.

Among the most popular is Vidigal, which rises up a steep hillside over some of Rio’s most scenic beaches and offers some of the city’s most beautiful views. A government program to drive crime from the historically violent slum has attracted entrepreneurs and investors and also nurtured a step toward democracy.

It’s a Tuesday night at the entrance to Vidigal, and than 100 people have gathered at a forum to debate the recent changes in their community.

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Nine killed in Brazil slum violence

June 26, 2013

Al Jazeera, 06/26/2013

At least nine people, including a police officer, have been killed in the Nova Holanda favela in Rio de Janeiro, authorities have said.

Authorities said on Tuesday the deaths occurred following a gun battle between police officers and criminals taking advantage of protests sweeping through the city to loot and steal.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent Adam Raney, reporting from the favela, said he saw blood splattered on the walls of the homes of the dead.

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Rio, the olympic city, is a hub for progress in Brazil

June 19, 2013

Maria Paula Schmidt Carvalho – Quarterly Americas, 06/19/2013

If you walk today through Complexo do Alemão—an enormous Rio de Janeiro shantytown, or favela, that was once the frequent scene of gun battles—you can see the changes.  Last Christmas eve, the Brazilian Symphony performed a classical music concert in the community that, until recently, was so dangerous that police were afraid to enter it. People in the neighborhood, many of whom had never been to a concert before, were delighted.

To reach the neighborhood, you can now take the newly-installed cable car that resembles a gondola at an Alpine ski resort. Not only does it spare you the long climb in hot December weather—it offers a terrific view high above the 3.5 square kilometer neighborhood where 69,000 people live. The glass window reveals a giant and densely populated favela composed of poor houses unevenly distributed along narrow streets and small corridors. It is a unique and complex human map of haphazard paths and supply lines for water, electricity and gas.

The new cable car—which cost the Brazilian public $105 million—is part of the Brazilian federal government’s Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento (Growth Acceleration Program—PAC), a huge urbanization project that has taken place in Rio’s poor communities. The cable car was constructed to make Complexo do Alemão more accessible. “The lift is a blessing for the ones who live at the top of the community. Now we feel free,” said Teresinha Maria de Oliveira, a washerwoman who has lived in the favela for decades.

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Redeemers of a macho society

June 13, 2013

The Economist, 06/15/2013

RIO DE JANEIRO is proof that even nature’s most lavish blessings cannot guarantee success. Rio lost its position as Brazil’s political capital to Brasília in 1960 and its status as the country’s business capital to São Paulo over the following decades. Gang wars and poor infrastructure have battered its tourist industry. The 2016 Olympic games represent the city’s best chance of reversing decades of decline. But is it capable of seizing the chance? That question towers over Rio like the rhetorical equivalent of the statue of Christ the Redeemer.

The person who will do more than anybody else to answer it is the head of the Municipal Olympic Company, Maria Sílvia Bastos Marques. She has the perfect background to lead an organisation that straddles the public and private sectors: a former boss of a steel company and director of Brazil’s two biggest companies, Petrobras and Vale, she has also held numerous positions in local government and served as the first female director on the board of Brazil’s huge development bank, BNDES. And she has a ready answer to any question.

What about logistics? She points to a map that shows the dedicated bus lanes and metro lines that will bring the scattered population to the games. What about Rio’s Byzantine government (power is divided between federal, state and municipal government, and the armed forces own huge chunks of land in the city)? She seems to know everyone who matters. What about crime? She notes that this is not her responsibility but quotes figures to show that the new “pacification” police are doing a good job. Ms Bastos Marques says she wants the games to transform her native city, speeding up projects that have been on the books for years—such as a 30-year-old scheme to upgrade the port district—to lay the foundations for long-term growth.

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Rio police tackle favelas as World Cup looms

June 11, 2013

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 06/10/2013

It was perhaps not the wisest question to a gangland boss: how good is your gun?

“These guns are the best,” said the Red Command patrão (neighbourhood boss), patting a Glock pistol with an extended 32-bullet clip. “I’ll show you.” With that, he pointed the barrel to the sky and let off a volley of half a dozen shots. “Do you understand now?”

The crackle of gunfire might have sparked consternation in many countries, but in this gang-controlled favela in the north of Rio de Janeiro, the sound was so commonplace that passersby barely broke stride. Three young gang members with Glocks and walkie-talkies looked up briefly and then continued chatting on the white plastic chairs that served as their sentry post. Drug users in the nearby crack den failed to stir at all. The police were nowhere in sight.

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Brazil’s Lightning Operation takes Rio shantytowns to ensure Olympic travel route

March 4, 2013

Fox News Latino, 03/04/2013

A lightning operation conducted without incident by Brazilian security forces  early Sunday morning allowed authorities to regain control of two “favelas,” or  shantytowns, in a strategic part of Rio de Janeiro forming part of the roadway  corridor for the 2016 Olympic Games.

The Complejo do Caju and Barreira do Vasco favela districts, which for  decades had been controlled by drug traffickers, were taken over in half an hour  by some 1,500 members of the security forces, mainly the Bope special operations  battalion and the Shock Battalion of the Military Police, backed up by the local  Civil Police and some 200 navy riflemen.

The riflemen, transported on navy armored vehicles, removed the barricades  and other obstacles that drug traffickers had left along stretches of roadway to  make police access more difficult.

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Brazil is stamping out favela violence – now on to trash collection and education

August 1, 2012

Julia Michaels – Christian Science Monitor,8/1/2012

Ever since pacification began in Rio de Janeiro, in November 2008, we’ve been hearing (and saying) that social needs must also be met. As the number of UPPs, or police pacification units, grow (now at 26, employing 5,000 men and women, with a goal of 40 by 2014), State Public Safety Secretary José Mariano Beltrame – and many others – repeat the mantra about the other side of the coin.

The Social UPP got off to a shaky start, with Governor Sérgio Cabral’s political needs shoving it out of the state nest in December 2010, into the municipal one, under the aegis of the Pereira Passos Institute. From day one however, it’s been run by Ricardo Henriques (who next week hands his post over to former municipal finance secretary Eduarda La Rocque, who is to keep on current director Tiago Borba) and a growing team, in partnership with the United Nations Habitat program.

Centuries of neglect and the mantra repetition have led to the general perception in Rio that police pacification is dangerously outpacing the city’s ability to meet social needs.

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After operation, Rio’s forces greeted by wariness

December 10, 2010

Alexei Barrionuevo – New York Times, 12/09/2010

Flanked by officers holding assault rifles, José Mariano Beltrame, Rio’s security chief, strolled through the streets of Complexo do Alemão, just days afterthe police and military had stormed the notoriously dangerous slum and retaken it by force.

It was a historic walk, the first time he had set foot in the slum in years, underscoring this city’s newfound willingness to wrest away areas of the city that have been violent refuges for drug gangs for more than three decades.

Residents watched stone-faced as Mr. Beltrame passed. No one applauded or rushed to shake the hand of the man who had orchestrated the program to “pacify” Rio’s slums ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games. Instead, a 54-year-old mother confronted him for several minutes, telling him that a Military Police officer had entered her home, pinned her against her kitchen sink and demanded her son’s money.

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Organised crime in Brazil: Conquering Complexo do Alemão

December 3, 2010

The Economist, 12/02/2010

IT WAS a moment that residents of Rio de Janeiro thought would never come. For decades many of the city’s favelas have been ruled by drug traffickers or militias. Sporadic flare-ups would see the police go in to these self-built settlements seeking revenge, only to pull back leaving bodies scattered and the gangs to return to business. But last month when the city’s two main drug gangs began hijacking and torching vehicles at gunpoint, this time the authorities’ response was different.

The state governor, Sérgio Cabral, ordered jailed gang leaders suspected of masterminding the mayhem moved to distant high-security prisons. He also asked the federal government for help. On November 25th police, backed by marines and armoured vehicles, pushed into Vila Cruzeiro, which forms part of Complexo do Alemão, a cluster of a dozen favelas in the north of the city. Brazilians were riveted by live television coverage of dozens of gun-toting gangsters fleeing across a hillside to the heart of Complexo do Alemão. The army arrived and encircled the entire Complexo. At dawn on November 28th police and troops went in and, after a firefight, took control. At least 37 people died in the clashes, several of them bystanders.

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